HACKENSACK — Following a tumultuous start that spurred after the city proposed the project last year, the Atlantic Street Park is officially open to the public.
Residents gathered at the park, located between Atlantic and State streets, on July 15, to witness the grand opening of the latest installment in the revitalization of the city’s downtown.
Mayor John Labrosse did the honor of cutting the ribbon to officiate a turning point in redevelopment in the community.
The Upper Main Street Alliance also joined Labrosse on the park’s amphitheater stage to recognize the collaborative team effort made by government officials, businesses, developers, artists, designers and community leaders.
Officials view that the purpose of installing this park is to ignite a comeback for the downtown. Officials see the park and the arts as a means to spring this revitalization.
“The opening of this park coincides with the rebirth of the downtown,” said Jerome Lombardo, chairman of the alliance. “This is a key puzzle piece for the redevelopment of Hackensack.”
The park was built on top of an under-utilized municipal parking lot known as Lot W.
According to Lombardo, the park is meant to be an open space for the community.
“Every great city has great open space,” Lombardo said.
Gregory Liosi, the artisitic director for the arts center, said he was pleased to have another venue where local theatre groups can perform.
“We are going to kick off the grand opening with Shakespeare in the Park tonight!” Liosi said.
During last year’s spring months, residents voiced their disdain over the park, while others supported the project. Many of the opposed argued about the impending cost and whether the project should take precedent over repairing potholes and streets. Supporters of the park said it would be not only aesthetically pleasing, but a destination that would subsequently bring more foot traffic to the downtown area.
The park sits adjacent to the new Cultural Arts Center, took approximately six months to build and cost $617,085.
According to Francis Reiner, the city planner with Senior Urban Designer of DMR Architects, the park was funded through a Bergen County Open Space Grant for $268,000. The city also funded $268,000 through a bond ordinance. The Upper Main Street Alliance raised about $40,000 to offset some of the costs for constructing the park.
“I think this can be a place where the residents of Hackensack can come together again,” said resident Laura Kirsch, treasurer of the Johnson Public Library and Zoning Board attorney, said.
“Now that the malls are struggling to keep buyers, this park is an example of a comeback for downtown Hackensack.”